Nature Tour to Thailand

Just over a month since my last post, I’m finally ready to share some of the photos from a recent 19-day nature trip to Thailand. We’d left early on a rainy morning a week before Thanksgiving (missing entirely the huge snowstorm at home over the holiday) on the more than 25 travel hours to Bangkok (22 hours in the air plus layovers in Los Angeles and Seoul). The flights home would be even more ridiculous, leaving about midnight and taking more than 33 hours with the 7-8 hour layovers involved. Time got sufficiently scrambled going both ways that I managed to avoid jet lag entirely, although Rebecca seems to have gotten a bit after the trip. Gotta love that International Date Line deal; even though we left Bangkok about midnight on 12/8, we still got home by 6pm the same day, almost 6 hours earlier than our departure.

Arriving about midnight, we checking into an airport hotel before flying another hour to Chiang Mai where we’d meet the rest of our tour group late the next day. Just outside the hotel the next morning we’d spot our first butterflies and see the most elaborate Buddhist spirit house of the many we’d see during our visit.

Spirit House at Amaranth Hotel

Our flight to Chiang Mai later that morning went smoothly and we soon checked into the marvelous Rachamankha Hotel located in a very quiet neighborhood within the old city walls just steps from the first of numerous Buddhist temples or wats we’d see and one of the most spectacular, Wat Phra Singh.

Wat Phra Singh

The next day after walking around the walled city neighborhood, we took a taxi to the Chiang Mai Zoo on the outskirts of town for an enjoyable afternoon of spotting a few more new butterflies and walking around the huge zoo that worked its way up forested foothills; passing by the lion exhibit on our way out, I happened to glance back at the exhibit and noticed this alpha male catching some sun.

Lion (Chiang Mai Zoo)

The tour, organized by Greentours UK, included the two of us, six folks from the UK, our incredibly knowledgeable guide, Paul Cardy, and our two drivers, Kampanat and Jo. For the next two weeks, we were off to look for butterflies, birds, and whatever else caught our eye as we drove in two comfortable vans to several national parks in northern Thailand, including Doi Suthep, and Doi Inthanon, a long driving day to Erawan and Sai Yok, further south to Kaeng Krachang for a couple of days and the last few days at Khao Sok.

Khao Sok Valley

Following are (probably too many) pictures of a few of the roughly 200 butterfly species we’d see along with some of the other amazing creatures from a most enjoyable trip.  One of the first butterflies to really get my attention was the Indian Purple Sapphire,

Indian Purple Sapphire (Heliophorus indicus)

soon to be followed by the Red Lacewing

Red Lacewing (Cethosia biblis)

and the White Dragontail.

White Dragontail (Lamproptera curius)

The hits would keep coming with such species as Common Earl,

Common Earl (Tanaecia julii odilina)

The Common Archduke,

Common Archduke (Lexias pardalis)

just a Common Evening Brown,

Common Evening Brown (Melanitis leda)

The Knight,

The Knight (Lebadea martha martha)

and several of the Autumn Leaf, this one the freshest we’d see,

Autumn Leaf (Doleschallia bisaltide)

and the only one that gave us a peek at what was inside.

Autumn Leaf (Doleschallia bisaltide)

Much more to come, including the Fluffy Tit,

Fluffy Tit (Hypolycaena erylus)

one of which opened its wings to really show off,

Fluffy Tit (Hypolycaena erylus)

the Common Posy,

Common Posy (Drupadia ravindra)

and Club Silverline, well-spotted by Ian.

Club Silverline (Cigaritis syama)

A little later in the trip a few striking butterflies would appear and we’d find some locations with large numbers of butterflies swarming around puddles. A couple of these included the Common Bluebottle

Common Bluebottle (Graphium sarpedon)

and the Red-spot Sawtooth (a mimic of the several species of Jezebel we’d see on the trip).

Red-spot Sawtooth (Prioneris philonome)

Butterflies were the main focus of our attention, but we spent a bit of time looking for birds as well, almost all of which were new for us (tho I’d seen many on a birding tour there in 2010), including several kinds of kingfisher,

Stork-billed Kingfisher

a Little Spiderhunter posing artistically on the heliconia,

Little Spiderhunter

the Chestnut-headed Bee-eater,

Chestnut-headed Bee-eater

and Rebecca’s target bird for the last two years, Eurasian Hoopoe.

Eurasian Hoopoe

Everywhere we went, the local cats were incredibly friendly and would readily come over for a scratch. (They were also quite appreciative of the kitty treats Rebecca would bring along for the day.)

Friendly Kitty

In several places, we’d come across troops of monkeys working their way through the trees, crossing trails and roads on their way somewhere, or just sitting around grooming or digging for insects to eat. Overall, they seemed to realize we were there but paid little attention to us as they went about whatever they were doing. We’d come across some of the larger Stump-tailed Macaques, hear the singing (and almost catch a glimpse) of the White-handed Gibbons, but get our best photos of the Dusky Langur

Dusky Langur

and the Long-tailed (Crab-eating) Macaque.

Long-tailed Macaque

Lots of odonates (dragonflies and damselflies) got our attention, which I suspect were one of our guide’s main interests, along with a variety of other insects and spiders. The tiniest spider I just happened to spot was this little one (no idea what species it might be),

Tiny Spider

and we were all amazed by this large colony of Cellar Spiders (Daddy Long-legs) covering the trunk of a tree.

Cellar Spider

Insects included several of the colorful Lantern Bug (almost 2″ long),

Lantern Bug

a cool Leafhopper,

Leafhopper

and a very cryptic Grasshopper.

Cryptic-looking Grasshopper

Most odd-looking was this moth spotted on an outdoor restroom wall.

Odd-looking Moth

A rather unusual toadstool got our attention one day.

Toadstool

We’d also come across a few frogs and toads,

Treefrog

all kinds of lizards including the large Tokay Gecko (way larger than the small House Geckos everywhere we stayed),

Tokay Gecko

and of course the rather huge Monitor Lizards.

Monitor Lizard

Only a couple of snakes. Didn’t get a picture of the cobra going after our guide one morning, but was amused by how quickly he was able to jump out of the way. More relaxing was this Painted Bronzeback that Rebecca happened to spot off to the side of the trail.

Painted Bronzeback Snake (Dendrelaphis pictus)

After four days at Khao Sok, we drove to Krabi for a quick flight to the Bangkok Airport where most of the group would fly home early the following day. Our flight wouldn’t depart until almost midnight that next day, so Rebecca and I had an interesting and fun day having a taxi drop us off near the Grand Palace in downtown Bangkok (about 30 minutes from the airport). An interesting boat tour of the canals followed by being rather unexpectedly dropped off in the middle of nowhere on the other side of the river. That turned out well, however, in our getting to visit the amazing Wat Arun – the Temple of Dawn, discovering we could ferry from there across the river for only 4 baht (12 cents), and walk by the Grand Palace where there was some kind of rehearsal (we think) going on of some royal event happening the next week. An excellent trip overall with a great group of people. If you’re interested in seeing more of the pictures from the trip, go check out my http://sandianet.com/thailand2019 webpage that’s still under development for a few weeks.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

About joeschelling

Birding, butterflies, nature photography, and travel blog from right here in Albuquerque New Mexico.
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6 Responses to Nature Tour to Thailand

  1. An amazing trip! Isn’t it marvelous how many species of butterflies there are in the world?

  2. Bonnie Long says:

    Hi Joe, Your pictures are incredible! The butterflies, birds & other insects and critters are so beautiful, colorful & exotic. What a fascinating country. I’ve never considered going to Thailand, but may re-think that. Bonnie

  3. Rebecca Gracey says:

    Joe, what a wonderful write-up of our trip. The beautiful butterflies were a joy to see and photograph.

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